When Lucasfilm said that there would be nothing for Star Wars Episode VII at Comic-Con this year many people assumed there would be a cute video message from JJ Abrams shown during the Disney panel in Hall H. Or maybe somebody would make the big announcement about the title of the movie. But that now seems incredibly unlikely as the entire weekend's programming has been announced and Disney will not be coming to Comic-Con at all*.
Also not coming: Lionsgate, who is debuting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 this year**. With all the great new teasers being released I thought for sure the studio was building up to some kind of a Comic-Con trailer premiere. But instead Katniss and friends will be staying home, perhaps debuting something online that weekend which will have just as wide a reach while costing much, much less than an expensive panel at the San Diego Convention Center.
If Disney had come the big movies would have been Big Hero Six, the next Disney Animation feature which happens to be based on a Marvel property, and Tomorrowland, the George Clooney scifi movie about the theme park. I honestly thought we might get George Clooney in Hall H, but without a panel that seems incredibly unlikely. This also means no Pixar, and no Inside Out, the next original Pixar movie.
By sitting out Comic-Con Disney is declaring its D23 convention as the destination for all their movies. As the company expands outside of traditional Disney stuff (think singing princesses) that makes D23 much more of a general pop culture destination. All of a sudden D23 looks less like a con for a niche fandom and more of a major player in the geek space.
But what's up with Lionsgate? Do they simply think the Comic-Con crowd isn't the Mockingjay crowd? I hope that isn't the case - The Hunger Games movies have proven that female-led films can cross over to men. For the last few years I've wondered when studios would start to think that the expenditure and effort of Comic-Con - it costs thousands upon thousands of dollars just to get talent down to San Diego and housed and fed, let alone having any sort of events on site - weren't worth the bump. Mockingjay is going to be huge, Comic-Con or no Comic-Con, so why spend on it? And why get caught up in the game of which movies popped the most in Hall H, a game that doesn't have an upside for the studio? In fact it's becoming clearer that having your movie/game/book at SDCC means you're more likely to end up in the noise, not the signal.
Comic-Con's focus has been slowly slipping from movies to TV, and I think this is another step in that process. In a few years only a few major films will be showing up, while TV will rule the convention center. The fandoms involved in these shows are even more rabid than those who are into big boy movies, so don't expect SDCC to become less crowded, just expect the demographics to continue to shift. This has been going on for a while, but I think Lionsgate and Disney sitting out SDCC 2014 could be a real turning point.
* Marvel Studios will be at Comic-Con as their own entity, likely revealing all of Phase Three and possibly even the casting for Doctor Strange. If there is going to be any Episode VII stuff it'll be snuck into one of the many panels about Star Wars Rebels and other expanded universe Star Wars stuff. Could the name leak there?
** Lionsgate's WWE films, See No Evil 2 and Leprachaun: Origins will be at the Con with panels in the smaller Room 7AB.